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Ask an expert part II: psychologist Dr Vicki Williams on time management

Rosalind Scutt
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
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Five questions for Dr Vicki Williams on time management: part II

Vicki Williams, PhD is a psychologist who has a particular interest in the developmental origins of the links between stress and physical health. You can contact Dr Williams at Sydney Behavioural Health.

Q 1. How important is regular exercise?

Like stress, without exercise we get sick and die too soon. It's how we perceive 'exercise' that has urban dwellers in a bit of a dilemma. The best model for exercise is 'incidental exercise'. The Blue Zones study of those parts of the world where people live longer and healthier shows us that the more we move as a part of our daily activity, the leaner and healthier we will be. We all don't have vegetable gardens to tend, animals to shepherd, or villages to walk to every day, however, we can get more incidental activity in our lives with some adaptation of these ideas.

Q 2.If someone is feeling time poor, will it really benefit them to squeeze in exercise at the expense of other commitments?

See above, and prioritise.

Q 3. Are there some common mistakes you see people making that might set them up to arrive at a point of feeling stressed eg: not being able to say no or having very high self-expectations?

I don't call these mistakes. How we respond to stress is partly to do with our biological makeup in terms of temperament (biologically defined patterns of reactivity and regulation), and how we have learned to cope. It really helps to know and understand your temperament because that is a little out of your control. Some people have faster and more intense responses to stress, and take a little longer to calm down. Unhelpful habits such as having very high self-expectations have been learned, however, and these habits can be changed over time.

Q 4. What advice would you give to motivate people to change their habits and become more disciplined?

Knowledge and skills. If you haven't learned how to manage your time when you need to, then start from where you are and get the knowledge and skills you need.

Q 5. How much time daily should a person try to schedule for relaxation time?

This is a really tough question. First I would want to define 'relaxation'. Many people would include things like reading, watching television, swimming even! My concept of relaxation is more about calming the mind and body. If I were recommending therapeutic relaxation, it would involve 2 x 20 minute periods each day at most and as little as five minutes per day to begin with. Many people I see struggle with being quiet and still for as little as five minutes at one time.

This is the final part of a two-part interview. Read part one: Dr Vicki Wiliams on time managment, part I.

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